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On the Importance of Fantasy


Fantasy novels are my favorite novels. Holy fuckin' shit.

Yes... but no... but yes...

Yes... but no... but yes...

It may come as no surprise to you that I am of the opinion that, "truthfulness to life" is good and all in my art and entertainment, but often times (with notable exceptions) if it's a slave to "reality" then I tend to have a bit of a beef with it.

Art opens up the doors to worlds and ideas that no one else has ever dreamed up before - why not inject some "otherworldliness" into your creation?

I know that harsh reality has its place - but most of the time, it's not for me.

Now, I operate on a pretty broad definition of "fantasy". For instance, I mentally categorize a lot of the shit that happens in, say, a Jack Reacher novel as fantasy because the action in it is, frankly, fantastical. Same can be applied across a lot of different genres - romance and mystery? Of course!

My definition of "fantasy" involves bringing the audience into a world where something more is possible. We don't have to be restricted by silly things like "reality" because whatever the creator imagines is possible in their finely altered world is.

Which isn't to say verisimilitude isn't of great importance, same with consistency, but both of those are perhaps leaned on even moreso in the most fantastical stories - you can't just keep making up rules, you'll frustrate and confuse people.

My preference is fantasy. Show me something that I couldn't see in the news.

But sometimes...

Well, while technically every work of fiction is on some level a fantasy, that doesn't mean it is. Some stories just wouldn't work as works of fantasy. What makes Poisonwood Bible, say, such a gut-punch is that everything in it feels so very real, making that particular story so tragic. In Cold Blood as well.

Undermining myself? Running in circles? Perhaps. But I have my preferences and I'm simply laying them out. We are contradictory and I am absolutely no exception.

I like fantasy because it is a celebration of the human mind's ability to create. I love it because it means the only limit is how bonkers the creator is. I love it because, while apart from the "real world," fantasy, no matter how out there, is still a part of the "real world" because that, ultimately, is where creators must live. Fantasy takes what the creators see in the "real world," then extrapolate and twist it, not so that it is unrecognizable, but so that there is a degree of separation allowing the audience both to immerse themselves in and think about the comparison (if they so choose).

"Fantasy" to most seems to mean elves and orcs and dwarves and magic, but it doesn't have to. Some of the best works of "fantasy" aren't that; The Famished Road - pure fantasy with a distinctly Nigerian flair to it.

I like this broad definition better. I don't like being pigeon-holed to the medieval era (though I do love me some good ol' high fantasy) - any time period, any setting can be imbued with "magic."

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